Dont MIss Out on the Release Blitz for Slashed and Mashed: Seven Gayly Subverted Stories by Andrew J. Peters (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Slashed and Mashed: Seven Gayly Subverted Stories

Author: Andrew J. Peters

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 11, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 96700

Genre: Fantasy Folklore, LGBT, retold lore/folklore, fantasy, mythical creatures, magic, magic beings, magical reality, trickster, action/adventure, established couple, over 40, Greek mythology, Hungarian folklore, Grimm’s fairytales, Momotarō, historical fiction, jaguar folklore, the Arabian Nights, African folklore, Uncle Remus.

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Synopsis

What really happened when Theseus met the Minotaur? How did demon-slaying Momotarō come to be raised by two daddies? Will Scheherazade’s hapless Ma’aruf ever find love and prosperity after his freeloading boyfriend kicks him out on the street? Classic lore gets a bold remodeling with stories from light-hearted and absurd, earnestly romantic, daring and adventurous, to darkly surreal.

The collection includes: Theseus and the Minotaur, Károly, Who Kept a Secret, The Peach Boy, The Vain Prince, The Jaguar of the Backward Glance, Ma’aruf the Street Vendor, and A Rabbit Grows in Brooklyn.

Award-winning fantasy author Andrew J. Peters (The City of Seven Gods) takes on classical mythology, Hungarian folklore, Japanese legend, The Arabian Nights, and more, in a collection of gayly subverted stories from around the world.

Excerpt

Slashed and Mashed
Andrew J. Peters © 2019
All Rights Reserved

THE GREAT HALL of the king’s palace was vast enough to house a fleet of double-sailed galleys, and its gray, fluted columns, as thick as ancient oaks, seemed to tower impossibly beyond a man’s ken. Prince Theseus had been told, he had been warned of the grandeur of the Cretans, how it was said they were so vain they forged houses to rival the palace of Mount Olympus. Yet to see was to believe. For a spell, the sight of the great hall stole the breath from his lungs and slowed his feet to a stagger. Should not he, a mere mortal, prostrate himself on his knees in a place of such divine might, such miraculous invention? It felt as though he had entered the mouth of a giant who could swallow the world.

No, he reminded himself: this was all pretend, a trick to frighten him and his countrymen, though he only half believed that. Silenos, an aged tutor who Theseus’s father had hired to teach him all things befitting a young man of the learned class, had cautioned him not to trust his eyes, that these pirates of Crete used their riches to build a city of illusions so any navy that endeavored to alight at its shores would be hopelessly confounded and turn back to sea in terror.

Theseus forced a swallow down his bone-dry throat and retook his steps to keep pace with the soldiers who escorted his party into the hall. He had brought his father’s highest-ranking admirals to accompany him, Padmos and Oxartes, and the king had sent three men for each one of them to meet them at the beach where they had rowed ashore. From there, they had been conveyed up a steep, zigzagging roadway to the palace. The armored team looked like an executioner’s brigade rather than a diplomatic corps. They were hard-faced warriors clad in bronze-plated aprons and fringed, blood-red kilts, and they carried spears that could harpoon a monster of the ocean.

He tried to look beyond the many wonders and train his gaze on the distant dais where the king and his court awaited him. Yet curiosity bit at Theseus. Oil-burning chandeliers seemed to hover in the air, hung from chains girded to a sightless ceiling. No terraces had been built to bring in daylight, nor doorways to other precincts of the statehouse, unless they were hidden. Theseus would say it smelled of nothing but damp stone and clay, the cool, cloistered air too sacred to be disturbed by perfumes. The walls shimmered with a metallic reflection of the room’s massive columns, affecting the appearance that the hall went on to infinity. The diamond-patterned carpet on which he trod was one continuous design stretching from the vaulted doorway where he had entered all the way to the other end. Such a carpet was surely large enough to cover the floors of every house in Athens!

As he neared the stately dais, he beheld the king’s high-backed throne of ebony and glimpsed the man himself along with the shadowy members of his court. Theseus lowered his gaze to disguise his impressions. He supposed it also counted as a gesture of respect. He followed the soldiers into a lake of light that glowed from thick-trunked braziers on either side of the hall’s carpeted, shallow stage.

Their steps ended some ten paces in front of the room’s dignitaries, including, of course, the king himself. The armored men knelt on one knee, drummed down the handles of their spears on the floor, and bowed their helmet-capped heads as one company.

That left Theseus and his consorts standing and wondering what to do with themselves for a worrisome moment. To kneel to the king was to surrender Athens’ sovereignty, and that had not been his father’s bargain. Though his princely leather cuirass and his laurel crown felt peasant-like, almost absurd while he stood before the king, Theseus did not break. He glanced to Padmos and Oxartes so they would know they should neither kneel nor bow.

Righteousness grew inside Theseus, arisen from the unsurpassed conviction of a youth of eighteen years who felt well-acquainted with the indignities of the world, though in truth had rarely been cut down to size. As an infant, he had been sent to live in his mother’s village, which was countries apart from the hubbub and political fray of Athens. This, no excess of fatherly protection, but a testament to his father’s severity. People later spoke of his banishment in the ennobling light of superstition, an augury of the night sky or some such according to his father. In any case, Aegeus had decreed: if his son was worthy to succeed him, he must earn the right on his own terms.

For most of his life, Theseus had not known his father. He had not even known of his paternity, though he had lived quite well as a handsome, rugged lad among countryfolk who required no more than that to smile upon him, fetch him apples, give him a rustle on the head when he passed by, a proud acknowledgment he was one of their own. Then came his mother’s confession, and his storied trek to present himself at his father’s court, which he had made on foot across Arcadia, an ungoverned, forested land that had been said to be rampant with all manner of bandits, ogres, and mythical beasts.

In Athens, he was a newcomer, an adventurer, and a fawn-haired swain, all of which earned him magnanimous gossip. Men made way for him, and women smiled and idled when he passed by.

Naturally, young Theseus was aware of none of this, as a favored flower does not question why it thrives in sunlight and has a gardener always at the ready for its succor, while others of its kind turn spiny and dull from negligence. Or, it should be said, a glimpse of his place in the world, past and present, was only just then taking form while he stood in King Minos’s great hall. He did not like how it made him feel.

He shook off the sinking sensation. He would be bold, for he alone stood for Athens in this house of tyranny. As he had heard, these foreigners had butchered his countrymen, raped their women, taken their daughters and sons as slaves, and burned their fields. He would end the war, and it did not matter if he returned to Athens on a white-sailed galley to herald a hero’s return or if a black-sailed ship should come back to his father, signaling that Crete had been his final resting place. So had he decided. He looked to King Minos to begin.

The Cretan king returned his gaze, appraising, taunting, and then he perched in his seat and craned his neck to see beyond the prince, to turn a querulous eye at the headmen of his squadron.

“Where is Athens’ tribute?” he spoke.

He appeared to be no more advanced in years than the prince’s father, a sturdy, dispassionate age. The similarity wore through at that. The king’s chestnut-brown beards were plaited and shone with oil, and he wore a miter banded with red-gold. He was clad in deep cerulean raiment of the finest dye and a draped, red stole, all adorned with fine embroidery and fringe. Theseus had never seen a man so richly clothed and groomed. His father, the wealthiest man in all of Attica, had only a sheep’s fleece and a laurel crown to say he was king.

“King Aegeus has sent me, his son, Theseus of Attica, to answer your request,” Theseus spoke.

Minos pursed his lips, sucked his teeth. “I asked for children.”

That was the compact signed by Theseus’s father to end the war—seven boys and seven girls surrendered to Minos in return for nine years of peace, during which the Cretan king had pledged he would call back his warships.

It was a war begun while Theseus still lived with his mother in the countryside, years before she had taken him to an unfarmed field outside the village and shown him his father’s buried sword, from which he came to know his origins. Theseus had only arrived in Athens one season past and been apprised of the history. This heartless war borne from a tragic misunderstanding.

Two years ago, Minos sent his son Androgeus to Athens on a friendly embassy, and when Theseus’s father took the youth on a hunt to see something of his country’s pastimes, Androgeus was thrown from his horse and landed headfirst on a rock. No physician nor priest could restore him. His spark of life had been extinguished all at once.

Aegeus returned the prince’s body to Crete with all due sacraments and respects. He had been washed to prepare him for his passage to the afterworld, and the king sent him across the sea on a bier of sacred cypress, ferried on his finest ship, oared by his best sailors, and with a bounty of funereal offerings, gold and silver, many times more than his kingdom could afford. Yet Minos declared treachery and turned fire and fury against Athens.

Three seasons the war had raged, and after a decisive battle on the Saronic Gulf, Minos claimed the vital sea passage and installed a naval blockade, robbing Athens of her trade routes and slowly starving her. Aegeus appealed to the Cretan king for an armistice. An emissary from Crete returned with the tyrant’s reply: fourteen innocent lives for the price of his son. This, after Crete had already extracted the lives of thousands of fighting men in payment for Androgeus, whose death could only be blamed on the mysterious Fates.

Aegeus decided he had no choice but to agree to the king’s terms, and his council supported him. The Athenian navy was no match for the foreigners neither by the numbers nor by the craftsmanship of their vessels. The Cretans flung barrels of fire from catapults. Their triremes were faster and their battering rams were more potent, carving apart a galley on a single run. The Athenian fleet had dwindled to a dozen vessels. Their forests were stripped of lumber, and even if they had the resources, their shipbuilders could not assemble new warships fast enough. Food shortages had depleted their force of able-bodied men to defend the city. Without a reprieve from war, the next attack on Athens would be the last. Who could stop an army empowered by the God of the Sea?

But after the lottery had been held, and weeping fathers from all parts of the country brought their sons and daughters to the naval pier where they would be ferried to Crete, Theseus could not bear it. He looked upon the children, stunned as lambs without their mothers, and wept for them, and wept for his country, and wept for the shame of being part of this abomination.

Then, in a rush of rage, Theseus attacked the sailors who would lead the children to the ship. He had come to know them as friends, yet all he saw were blank-faced monsters. By grace, he had only had his fists, and no man raised a blade to stop him. Theseus shoved, struck, and menaced perhaps a dozen before they overtook him and held him fast by his neck and arms. A terrible blackness ate up his vision, and, inspirited with a daemon’s strength, Theseus threw off his captors. He turned his fury at his father who stood at the landside end of the quay with his councilors.

Theseus shouted at them vicious oaths he had not known were in his vocabulary, and he spat at them. Did they not know what they were doing was an offense to the goddess? It was a betrayal of every free man of Attica. His throat was scorched from shouting, his voice hoarse, and he fell to his knees, dropping his bonnet, weeping and pulling at his thick, curled hair.

He looked up at his father. “Please, send me.”

Now Theseus faced King Minos intrepidly. “I have been chosen to stand for the children. I have only eighteen years, turned just this past season, and I am my father’s only son. I will face your contest.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

Meet the Author

Andrew J. Peters has been writing fiction since his elementary school principal let him read excerpts from his mystery novel over the PA system during lunch period, an early brush with notoriety, which quite possibly may have been the height of his literary celebrity. Since then, he has studied to be a veterinarian, worked as a social worker for LGBTQ youth, and settled into university administration, while keeping late hours at his home computer writing stories. He is the author of eight books, including the award-winning The City of Seven Gods (2017 Best Horror/Fantasy Novel at the Silver Falchion awards) and the popular Werecat series (2016 Romance Reviews Readers’ Choice awards finalist). Andrew lives in New York City with his husband Genaro and their cat Chloë. When he’s not writing, he enjoys travelling, Broadway shows, movies, and thinking up ways to subvert heteronormative narratives.

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Review: Apollo’s Curse by Brad Vance

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Apollo's Curse coverDane Gale has had one goal in life. That was to write and be a successful author.  But his only published novel lies languishing on the shelves with little to no takers.  When he joins a romance book club, he gets more than he bargained for.  His new friends Rose and Sherry and Dale find themselves critiquing the novels they are reading and finding that they believe that they could write one as well.   Soon an author is born. “Pamela Clarice,” self-published romance novelist, consisting of the three of them, and quickly they find they have published their first romance to some success.  And for each of their novels, Dane chooses a popular model to use for their covers, a man he can’t get out of his mind.

The model Dane is obsessing over is Paul Musegetes. Paul is the world’s most popular romance cover model, but hardly anything is known about him, other than only one photographer is allowed to take his pictures. When Dane, Rose, and Sherry attend the Romance Writers’ Ball on the Summer Solstice, Dane meets Paul  and connects for one night of passion that will change his life forever…

After that night with Paul, Dane finds his muse has ignited a storm of inspiration and he starts writing one successful novel after another.  And that’s all Dane does….he writes to the exclusion of all else.  Paul is a Muse who comes with a curse as well as the writers Midas touch.  The writer he anoints on the Summer Solstice has but one year of phenomenal success and then will never be able to write again.

Heartbroken at the price he never knew he would have to pay, Dane vows to track down Paul and break the curse.  But how to find a man who doesn’t seem to exist outside of a photograph?  All the clues lead to Venice and Paul’s photographer Jackson da Vinci…

What a great concept for a story!  The idea that a popular cover model, you know, the ones you see over and over again, is actually a Greek Muse, who with one night of supernatural sex, anoints an author to become the world’s most prolific and successful writer?  I love it!  And it works beautifully here as a means to explain the writing process and as a raison de etre for Dane , who has to travel not only to Venice but to Greece itself in order to find his answers and a way to break the curse.

Dane Gale is a character that has to grow on a reader.  At the beginning, he seems very self-involved and so sure he has written the “great American novel” that no one can appreciate as demonstrated by its poor sales.  But it’s what Paul is lacking that is the source of his writing woes and inability to understand love and romance.  Vance gives us the key to Dane early on when he introduces the women that will become not only Dane’s writing partners but his friends too.  Rose and Sherry open Dane up emotionally as each has a different talent to bring to their novels.  What does it say about Dane that his talent is editing,research,  formating and such?  As the three of them work on stories and ideas, it becomes clear to them all where Dane deficiencies lie.  Until he sees a picture of Paul Musegetes when searching for a cover model for their romances.  Then Dane becomes able to write not only steamy and believable sex scenes but frame out entire stories around Paul’s pictures.

Brad Vance does a great job here in relating the publishing world as it exists today with all the new avenues and formats of self publishing ebooks.  He goes into details about all the various ways in which an author can’t only publish their own stories but track their success and sales as well.  This element of the story teeters on almost too much information.  It is practically a “how to publish” pamphlet on its own.  Interesting but a little overwhelming although I understand why he wanted us to “watch” Dane’s excitement grow as his success climbs exponentially upward.

The women in this story are terrific characters and I wish we had as much of them towards the last section of the story as we did at the beginning.  We become invested in these women only to have them disappear halfway through the story.  Understandable, necessary, but their absence is definitely felt. Jackson da Vinci is a character to love the more you know about him.  He too needs enlightenment and only through his search with Dane does the end result of his own choices become apparent.

One of my most favorite aspects of Apollo’s Curse is the Greek island of Kos and its inhabitants.  Such wonders await the readers there, including bits of storytelling and characters worth the price of this novel alone.  It’s magical and poignant and I never wanted Dane and Jackson to leave. But of course, that was never possible….  But clearly Brad Vance knows and loves his Greek mythology as well as the islands.  Venice too ripples authentically off the pages of the story as the enchanting city it is.

Apollo’s Curse is a book that continued to grow on me even after I had finished.  The more its scenes and  characters came back to me, the greater my enjoyment in the world and story that Vance created.  It’s really a lovely romance as well as a cautionary tale of getting exactly what you asked for.  Steamy, hot, sex?  Not really, although perhaps you might anticipate that from the cover and the half dressed model.  Who is that model?  Why the photographer! His name is  Francesco Cura.  And Vance didn’t find out that he was the photographer until afterwards.  Now that’s a great surprise.

At the moment, Vance has said in his interview with me that this is a stand alone novel.  I hope not.  I want to know what happens to Jackson and Dane next.  Also Rose and Sherry who arrive at the end.  There is so much more to tell and I would love to see where Vance takes his characters and their Muse next.  Consider this story and author highly recommended.

Cover artist and model not credited.

Buy Links:   Amazon  Amazon UK       ARe          Barnes & Noble  Smashwords

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 280 pages
Published May 4th 2014 (first published May 1st 2014)
ASINB00K4FXL8O
edition languageEnglish

Three Fates by Andrew Grey, Mary Calmes and Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 stars

The Fates sit, spin and weave the fabric of all human life.  Some people’s threads are guided to the path of true love, some are lucky in love and life while others have their lives or threads cut short, their loves lost , while others still have waited many lifetimes to find their true love again.  All human life woven into a tapestry by the Fates with some surprising and  unexpected results, even to the Fates themselves.  Three Fates weave the stories of three very different couples, from werewolves in Germany to Scandinavians in California.

Fate Delivers A Prince by Andrew Grey gives us a young werewolf with a terrible itch who visits Germany with his family only to run into a prince who takes his royal duties very seriously.  Only an intervention by Clotho will put these two on a path to love.

Jump by Mary Calmes brings us into the lives of Egyptian gods and the Fates.  When one god loses his mortal lover, he renounces his immortality and dies.  Bereft his brother God begs the Fates interference to bring the two together again, no matter how many lives each must live before they find each other again.

Believed You Were Lucky by Amy Lane stars Loki and Thor as the Nordic gods whose meddling changes the patterns of two families, giving one the abundance of luck after stealing the luck from another.  When Lief, the lucky bike messenger saves the life of Hacon, who is laboring under a family curse, the Fates have a chance to right a wrong as the Gods look on.

What a remarkable trio of stories by three amazing authors.  In each story, the Fates weave out the pattern of peoples lives but things never go as planned, not without a little interference by the weavers themselves. If you have ever heard someone say “well, it must have been fate” and you believed it, then these stories are for you.

In Andrew Grey’s story, he brings the Greek Gods, or rather Clotho , the youngest of the Moirai or Fates to help two young lovers accept their destiny.  Clotho is responsible for making decisions, weaving the human story.  When it looks like Cheyanne the young were is going to listen to his insecurities and poor self image instead of attending the ball, Clotho sends the appropriate dress and instructions to send him to the ball and a meeting with his prince.  Chey is young endearing young man, whose position in the family as the baby plus an undiagnosed skin disease has turned him into someone who craves a library and books over human interaction and society. The descriptions of Chey interactions with his father were so touching and had that authentic feel of a father and son trying to navigate their issues with each other. In fact all the relationships here feel very real whether it is family dynamics or odd man out at the ball.  Reading this story gave me the feeling of being there watching it all unfold. Andrew Grey gives us a great sense of setting with his descriptions of the buildings and streets in Munich, Germany combined with terrific characterizations.And the idea that love is an itch you must scratch as well as the balm? Priceless. And so is this gentle tale of love and a forever prince from Andrew Grey.

Anubis and Horus come to life in this touching tale of love lost and centuries later found once more.  Haven’t you ever looked at someone and sensed an immediate connection beyond all logic?  I did and let the moment and the person go by to my everlasting regret.  So this story had a special resonance for me.  When Raza and Cassidy meet and seem to know one another, I  almost wept so right did Mary Calmes get that feeling, that moment in time.  And the character of Cassidy Jane is someone I have never seen from her before.  Short, skinny, bald and wearer of bowties!  I kept thinking where did you come from?  And I loved him!  And Raza, seemingly implacable until Fate smacks him in the chest in the form of Cass and they put right what went horribly wrong so long ago.  But this is a Mary Calmes story, so you have two lovable and oh so human best friends for our two main characters, Snow Drake and Jamie Kidd.  I loved them too.  And there is angst, and anxiety towards the end that it will all go wrong again but the Fates have other ideas, and so does Anubis. That climatic scene at the end? Scary and fun? Ah, Mary Calmes, you did it again.  This was wonderful.  I so love Cass!  Can we please see all of these people again?

Our third and last weaver of human destiny is Amy Lane.  Here she invokes the Gods of Asgard and the Fates called Verdandi (neccessity), Urdh(fate), and Skuld (being).  Here the Fates or Norns, also known as the three sisters, live under the world tree,Yggdrasil, in the realm of Asgard. They weave together the destinies of men and gods as well as the changing laws of the cosmos.  Their tapestry was interrupted, the pattern broken when Loki comes and steals a golden thread of luck from one baby and gives it to another.  The Fates are horrified at Loki’s act, Skuld takes the broken threads and spit splices them together as best she can. This results in “The family with the thread, they shall be lucky, long-lived, and blessed—mostly. And the family without? They shall be unlucky and doomed—but optimistic and intelligent and resourceful.” A temporary fix until a solution comes around in the form of sons from each family that meet and heal the break in their destinies in a most extraordinary way.  Here we meet two of the most remarkable creations, two sons of Norway residing in California, undeniable in their uniqueness and depth of character.  Lief, the lucky “Thundergod” of bike messengers glows his way off the pages and into our hearts, his personality larger than can be contained within this story. Hacon Haldor aka Hake took a little longer to creep into my heart. Dark, thin, brooding, he can kill tanks of tropical fish by freezing them and make his mother’s plants turn black as he passes, although he doesn’t really believe he is to blame no matter what his ex boyfriend and brother says. Flanking these remarkable beings are Lethal, a pint sized bit of attitude and energy who is Lief’s best friend, Andre who is Hake’s ex boyfriend and cop, and two unforgettable cats, Loki (of course) and Vanir who have their own roles to play.  Element upon element, layer upon layer,  the yarn Amy Lane has woven intertwines until we are given a story tremendous in scope, as large as Asgard itself.  We have mythological elements, the scary world of bike messengers, marvelous explanations of the meaning of stories and hero figures, knitting, and some of the best cussing phraseology that has come down the pike.  I am talking some memorable wall hangings and cross stitch pillows just screaming out to be made with those phrases in mind.  And no I cannot repeat them here.  You will have to read the story!  Uh hem.

I loved these stories.  They spoke to my mind and my heart.  Clearly these wonderful authors were fated to write them as we are to read them, enjoy them and bring them close.  Don’t pass these by, don’t give Loki a reason to make more mischief (like he needs any).  Whether you believe in Fate or happenstance, these stories are for you.  No quibbles here.  Trust me.  You’ll love them.

Cover art by Christine Griffin.  Love it.  What a great sexy cover.  Amy Lane says she is the Fate in the hoodie.  Of course she is.  So who do you think are the other two?